Maternal obesity in Africa: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Ojochenemi J. Onubi*, Debbi Marais, Lorna Aucott, Friday Okonofua, Amudha S. Poobalan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


Background Maternal obesity is emerging as a public health problem, recently highlighted together with maternal under-nutrition as a 'double burden', especially in African countries undergoing social and economic transition. This systematic review was conducted to investigate the current evidence on maternal obesity in Africa. Methods MEDLINE, EMBASE, Scopus, CINAHL and PsycINFO were searched (up to August 2014) and identified 29 studies. Prevalence, associations with socio-demographic factors, labour, child and maternal consequences of maternal obesity were assessed. Pooled risk ratios comparing obese and non-obese groups were calculated. Results Prevalence of maternal obesity across Africa ranged from 6.5 to 50.7%, with older and multiparous mothers more likely to be obese. Obese mothers had increased risks of adverse labour, child and maternal outcomes. However, non-obese mothers were more likely to have low-birthweight babies. The differences in measurement and timing of assessment of maternal obesity were found across studies. No studies were identified either on the knowledge or attitudes of pregnant women towards maternal obesity; or on interventions for obese pregnant women. Conclusions These results show that Africa's levels of maternal obesity are already having significant adverse effects. Culturally adaptable/sensitive interventions should be developed while monitoring to avoid undesired side effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e218-e231
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Public Health (United Kingdom)
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 17 Sept 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding: This work was supported by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the United Kingdom.


  • obesity
  • population-based and preventative services
  • pregnancy and childbirth disorders


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